Wheaton Way called worse than California freeway

The in basket: Katie Holden, a Navy wife and recent arrival here from San Diego, writes, “Another accident on Wheaton Way. When I first moved here, it struck me while driving on Wheaton Way that it feels like a ‘free for all.’ There are so many points of exit and entry while the center lane is for both directions.

“Shortly after that, I read in the paper that a baby had lost his life when the parents were involved in a traffic accident on Wheaton Way. This morning I read about another accident.

“Isn’t there a better way to deal with the amount of traffic on this road? Maybe there should be turn lanes dedicated to a certain direction rather than both directions.

“I would rather drive on San Diego’s deadly I-5 in rush hour traffic than on Wheaton Way during rush hour. Does this road seem dangerous to you?”

The out basket: As far back as I can recall in my 40-plus years as a reporter in Bremerton, Wheaton Way has been held out as a bad example of handling heavy traffic.

“You don’t want to make this another Wheaton Way” would be a frequent cry at meetings to discuss some planned development somewhere else.

At one time, it was proposed to pair it with a parallel street, probably a widened Pine Road, with a new bridge across the Port Washington Narrows, providing one-way travel in each direction. It would tie into High Avenue on the west side, its proponents said.

The idea died without making much progress, opposed by Pine Road and High Avenue residents and hobbled by lack of money.

Still, I don’t avoid Wheaton unless I think I’ll move faster on a side road. About the only time I feel in danger  there is when I’m northbound in the outside lane. The lack of deceleration lanes for right turns creates a risk of rear-enders, especially between Sylvan and Riddell.

Given the amount of traffic the highway must handle, I think the state and city do a pretty good job keeping it moving, albeit at the expense of those waiting on the side streets.

I don’t know what would be gained by eliminating the two-way turn lanes in favor of one-way turns. Who knows what confusion and risk would accompany requiring one direction of travel to find some way to get turned around to make a right where lefts no longer would be allowed.

And I’d hate to turn left onto Wheaton anywhere there’s no traffic light without the two-way turn lane to use as a refuge lane to wait in half-way across.

I just drove LA’s I-405 and I-110, right through the heart of downtown, and would consider either worse than Wheaton Way, attributable mostly to LA’s greater congestion.

And I’d rather drive any of them than 45th Street in Seattle’s U District.


10 thoughts on “Wheaton Way called worse than California freeway

  1. I’ve drive Wheaton Way EVERY day since 1996 and have never had an accident. Witnessed them most often between Sylvan and McWilliams, but never been a part of one. With that being said, I too am a former sailor (now retired) and have driven in almost every state (the Dakotas are still on my list) with Virginia and Washington D.C. having the WORST traffic I have ever driven in. Wheaton Way definitely has it’s share of incompetent drivers (mostly speeders but recently, texters too) but is no more dangerous than any other major thoroughfare that accommodates a high flow of military traffic twice a day during the week.

  2. I drive Wheaton way all the time, stay off it during rush hour. If you are going to avoid it by coming up Perry or Trenton, remember they are 25 mph in city limits and 35 in the county, not 50.

    Wheaton way is very much like much of Hwy 99. We need to stop allowing big box stores to open up just outside of city limit then give them their own private stop light. If I remember correctly in 1980 there was only two stop lights on 303 from Riddell to Silverdale way.

    The biggest problems on Wheaton are folks running red lights, Jaywalkers and folks trying to take left turns from parking lots. Go sit at Wheaton and Sylvan and watch the red light cameras flash.

  3. It seems that when going south on Wheaton Way, if you go the posted speed limit, you hit a red light at every light. That’s been my experience anyway.

  4. I’ve driven in LA, San Diego, Houston, San Antonio, Cleveland, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver BC, Tijuana, San Francisco, Oakland and probably a few others, and to compare a major city like any of those to Wheaton Way and say its as dangerous or more so, is like saying you’d prefer swimming in a tide pool instead of shark infested waters!! It doesn’t make sense. Wheaton Way is like a baby compared to any of those. I would rather drive down Wheaton Way at Christmas rush hour than any time of the day or night in any of the above listed cities, especially Los Angeles or San Diego. We now have closed stores and huge empty parking lots along Wheaton Way, why are we still having accidents? Maybe because the drivers are not paying attention to their driving, not watching for lights, for other drivers, talking on their cell phones or just plain ol’ distracted. You have to be paying attention, or we might as well blindfold ourselves, kiss our families goodbye and plan for a funeral.

  5. Personally I would rather drive on Wheaton Way than many other locations in the Puget Sound even during rush hour traffic. That’s one reason I live and work here rather than the Seattle suburbs. I do agree there are the drivers that need to slow down and use a bit more patience while driving. At the same time there are those drivers that need to speed up and do the speed limit too so the drivers behind them don’t go darting into the other lane to get around them. Either way it probably carries the highest amount of traffic in the Bremerton/Silverdale area and is possibly a toss-up with Hwy 305 through Poulsbo for the most traffice outside of Hwy 3.

    On a different note for the article’s author, there is no place in the article where it states that “Wheaton Way is worse than LA freeway.” Maybe Travis needs to scrutinize his articles more before titling them. There is mention about San Diego’s I-5 being worse, which is by far no place close to LA. The only mention of driving through LA on I-405 & I-110 states both of these are worse than Wheaton Way and not the other way around.

  6. Wheaton way has bad ruts, hard to ride on a motorcycle and my truck is always bouncing around trying to stay in them or get out of them.

    It’s far faster to take the side roads, all those uncoordinated stoplights and drivers talking on the cell phone just make for a horrible drive through constant red lights.

    What takes 26 minutes to get across town on wheaton way takes 12 minutes on the side roads @ the speed limit.

    Wheaton way with all of it’s closed shops and people just pulling out, not the place I want to drive, you have to be on CONSTANT alert for those people and hte people yacking on the cell phone.

  7. LivingInKitsap, perhaps you should take a closer look at the title. “Wheaton Way called worse than California freeway.” San Diego is definitely in California and thus the title does seem to fit the article. He is not calling California freeways worse than Wheaton Way, one of his readers did.

    I have driven Wheaton Way fairly often for the last 17 years that I have lived here and while, yes, it can be bad at times, especially that outside lane he mentioned between Sylvan and Riddell, it is by no means worse than LA or San Diego freeways. When I was on the I-405 in Long Beach with 8 lanes of traffic at a dead stop during the middle of the day, that is the worse I have ever seen.

  8. Road Warrior here. The Beagles were right, the headline originally said “LA”, so I changed it to ‘California’ before Michael saw it.

  9. San Diego and L.A traffic are apples and oranges. And I did say San Diego. With that said, the message is getting lost. The infrastructure was obviously designed for less traffic. From an outsiders perspective it is only going to get worse. More people are going to join the roads as population grows. It’s inevitable, so why not start thinking ahead for those kids who will be taking that road for the next 40 years.

  10. That project, when it happens, might make some difference to the problem I share with three other households, but I’m not hopeful.

    For four houses on the west side of Warren Avenue south of 11th St, the only access by car is via a one-way alley between 11th St & 10th St. Coming south, it’s a right turn. The alley is narrow and the pavement uneven, especially at the mouth, so the turn must be taken slowly.

    As soon as I cross 11th St. I engage my turn signal and pump my brakes a few times, but many drivers choose to ignore my signals, riding my bumper or swerving suddenly into my lane from the left, and then acting all shocked and angry when I make the turn. I can’t tell you how many narrow escapes I’ve had from being rear-ended, and the guilty drivers all act like it’s my fault.

    It sure would be nice if people would pay attention to the signals of drivers in front of them, and stop getting their knickers in a twist when someone does actually make a turn as signalled!

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